A Humbling Lesson in Gratitude

A Humbling Lesson in Gratitude

So yesterday, I was having a bit of a Grinch moment.  I was frustrated about several things and then while trying to go somewhere last night, my car got stuck in a snowbank in my driveway.  Frustrated and upset and tired of not having a significant other to help out, I slammed the door and went inside and decided to deal with it the next morning.  About 8:30 pm, I received a text from my landlady upstairs stating that someone was shoveling out my car.  I went up and it was my wonderful neighbor.  He had shoveled my entire driveway and then he helped me to get my car out of the snowbank.

Feeling very grateful to him and a bit embarrassed about my earlier complaints, I went back inside.  As I laid down, I pondered about many things in my life until I finally fell asleep.  It was then I had a humbling dream. I dreamt that I was getting ready to move to another city with my sister and my Dad and some other members of the family.  We were all going to leave at a specific time.  I had to run an errand to another section of town and promised I would be back before they all left.

This is where the dream took an interesting turn.  I had to drive to a part of town that wasn’t that safe when my car ran out of gas.  Knowing I was going to be late, I tried to make a call on my cell phone, but found all the data had been used up and there was no Wi-Fi.  I tried to borrow someone else’s phone, but it didn’t work.  Not long after, someone stole my purse.  With no money and my cell phone not working, I couldn’t call for help.

I wandered a few blocks into a neighborhood where hundreds of people lined the streets.  They were of every color, race, nationality and country.  Some had obviously been rich at one point as their clothing shown, but they had fled with just the clothes on their back.  I soon realized most of them were homeless locals and refugees.  I sat with one of the men asking if he had a phone and his phone didn’t work either.  I asked him why they were all waiting around and they said they were all waiting for places to sleep.  I looked around at the beds that had 2, 3 or sometimes 4 people to them and began to feel deeply humbled.  It was at this time that I found both my cell phone and even my shoes had disappeared.

Essentially, I was like these people.  I had no money, no shoes to walk anywhere, no car, no phone to call for help.  I was just like them and I realized how easy it was to have your life turn around so quickly.  As I partook of the breakfast food being served by volunteers, my sister came.  She had somehow found me and I knew I was going to be ok.  But as I left the building with the hundreds of refugees, I began to sing a hymn.  I don’t remember what it was, but it was a hymn of gratitude.  My sister joined me and soon, everyone there was singing this song.  For a moment, though these people were homeless, we were all grateful for what we did have.

I woke up from this dream and realized immediately the lesson that my Heavenly Father was trying to teach me.  We are all refugees in a way.  We owe our last breath to Heavenly Father for He has given us everything and can take everything away.  He does so to teach us powerful and important lessons in humility and gratitude and to rekindle that flame to serve.  How could we be grateful for an old car if we did not have to walk and take the bus?  How could we be grateful for warm shoes to cover our feet if we at one time didn’t have them?  How could we be grateful for our peaceful sanctuaries of home if we didn’t know the fear of losing that at one point? Once upon a time, even the King of all Kings was homeless as he was born and laid in a manger.

Mary and JesusYes, I am grateful.  I am thankful for the warm blankets on my bed and a warm home to sleep in, for the kindness of neighbors, for the love of family, for an old car that works and gets me to places I need to go, for a job that helps me pay my bills, for the food I have, for understanding friends, and most of all, for Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate at this wonderful time of the year.

As the song below says, there’s so much to be thankful for…

The Season of Light and Gratitude

The Season of Light and Gratitude

(There will be more installments of my adventures to come, but for now, my heart simply couldn’t hold the joy of the season inside any longer!)

thanksgiving-turkey

When I think of Thanksgiving, I also think of Christmas, because the two holidays are so completely intertwined.  Not in the materialistic or commercial way some people think, but because of the dear meanings they hold to me.

girl and tree

Dealing with a bit of jet lag and waking up at 2 am, I couldn’t get my mind to shut off.  Having recently returned from England, I was already full of happiness after seeing my family again after a month. Though I laid there trying to sleep, I found myself humming a Christmas song and feeling like a child full of excitement. 

Nope, there would be no sleeping for me.  I threw back the covers, pulled out the Christmas decorations, put on the music (quietly so as not to disturb my upstairs landlady) and began to put them up feeling a bit giddy.

Season of Light

With each unwrapping, I couldn’t stop smiling.  Every ornament and decoration held beautiful memories of family and friendships and love.  I hadn’t opened this particular box for several years and I had forgotten.  I put on one of my favorite Christmas CD’s and the familiar music brought tears to my eyes.  I felt joy bubble up inside of me and could only describe it as pure gratitude and love.

The Savior and the child

Gratitude for nature in all of its glories.  Gratitude for my own small home and the peace I feel every time I open the door and step inside.  Gratitude for each and every miracle of love I have received over my lifetime from my family and friends near and far.  And most of all, gratitude for my Savior, Jesus Christ, whom I celebrate with joy and wonder this season.

How could Thanksgiving not be interwoven with Christmas?  A grateful heart finds joy in giving and a giving heart finds joy in selflessly serving with love.  For the recipient, the act of love warms their lives with gratitude.  The circle is complete.  So for those who wish to put up their Christmas decorations alongside their Thanksgiving decorations, you are really just celebrating the joy that comes from the Season of Light, Love, Gratitude and Giving.  What could be more wonderful than that?

Night and Thanksgiving

Sometimes It’s Just Air…

The other day while running errands, I noticed the tire on my car was a little flat and went to fill it with air at the gas station.  There was another woman there filling up her tire and as I waited, I noticed she stopped and would shake out and rub her hands as if she was in pain.  I paused, because some people don’t always like to be helped.  But after watching her shake her hands out a second time, I turned off my car and went and asked if I could help her.  She said “Yes, please!” And so I filled up her tire for her.

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She explained that she had neuropathy in her hands from cancer.  My mother had neuropathy in her feet from diabetes and I knew how painful it could be.  She used to describe it as sharp needles of pain. I was glad I could help and after wishing her a nice day, she thanked me and left.  I thought no more about it.

The following Sunday, while sitting in church, we were encouraged to get up and share our feelings about Jesus Christ and other spiritual subjects if we felt inspired.  It’s called Testimony meeting and we have it once a month.  For some reason, though I don’t normally, I felt inspired to get up and share what had happened and talk about service to others as a way to light the world in dark times.

After I sat down, another woman stood up and said “I have the second half to Melissa’s story,” and she went on to describe that it was her friend who had been the cancer survivor! They had met at lunch just after my experience with her and she had talked about how grateful she was for the woman that had showed up when she needed help.

jesus-healing-blind-man-1617342-wallpaperThe woman spoke about how our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are in the details of our lives.  I sat there in awe (as did most of the rest of the audience) and couldn’t help the tears from flowing freely down my cheek.  I realized again how important our lives and everyday cares are to our Heavenly Father.  I thought about the numerous times someone has served me: an inspired call when I was lonely or feeling discouraged, a gift of money when I was broke, a knock at the door with some Christmas chocolate when I was craving chocolate just at the moment…and the list goes on.

inspirational-teens-STUN-homeless-Christmas-giftsWhat better way to celebrate Christmas than with random acts of love and kindness?  You can be the angel to someone else if you just listen to that little voice inside of you.  Sometimes it’s just a hug, a smile, a kind word offered to someone having a hard day, extra change, a listening ear, a pair of shoes, a shoveled sidewalk, a conversation with a lonely person and sometimes…it’s just air in a tire.

Sending my love and hugs and Christmas wishes to you all! 

christmaseve

Random Acts of Kindness

I was in the vitamin aisle wondering if I had enough money to buy my vitamins or if I should wait until I had a secure income.  I knew I was going to have to borrow money to make rent and wondered if the vitamins went on the necessity list or the “want” list. Then I glanced over my shoulder and saw her.  She was sitting on the metal bench at the pharmacy.  She was in her pajamas, talking on her cell phone and trying her best to wipe the tears away so others would not notice.

It was the day after Thanksgiving and shoppers were rushing by trying to get the best Christmas sales.  There was a general air of jolliness as the people passed, scurrying to get their errands done.  But there was no happiness in her face.  Our eyes met and for that brief moment, I saw the pain, the sadness, that desperate air of wanting to do…something and not knowing what to do.  It tugged at my heart.  I recognized that pain and that look in her eyes.  I have known it all too well.

Feeling shy and indecisive, I turned away.  Wasn’t that the polite thing to do when someone was hurting?  I mean, you don’t just walk up and hug a stranger.  I turned and looked at her again and then made up my mind.  There are times when you need to reach beyond your comfort zone.

Walking over to the flowers, I purchased a bouquet and then quickly made my way back hoping she was still there.  She was pacing in front of the pharmacy waiting for her prescription to be filled.  Nervously, I walked up to her and handed her the flowers and said “Whatever it is, I hope it gets better soon.  Merry Christmas.”  And then suddenly feeling a great deal of love, I reached out and hugged her and she hugged me back.  “Thank you,” she said quietly.  I looked in her eyes and though there were tears, I also saw surprise and something else…hope.  I turned and walked away and as I did so, she called out “Merry Christmas!”  I smiled and disappeared. For the rest of the day, the memory of her brave smile and sudden “Merry Christmas” stayed in my mind and I felt as if my own worries and burdens had somehow been lifted.

I do not tell you this story to make myself look like something I am not.  I tell you this story as a reminder that the best thing we can do to feel better about our own situations in life is to reach out and offer love, compassion and service to others.  If random acts of kindness were the hallmark of our society, there would not be so much sadness, so much anger and so much hatred.

So when you feel as if despair has taken hold and you can’t see outside of yourself, do me one favor…look around, find someone who needs a hand of compassion and reach out with love.  I promise you that your own burdens will seem lifted in return. Love sent to you all…

A Call to Arms…

On Saturday night, I was privileged to attend a beautiful women’s conference.  It was focused on reaching out to serve others, especially the 60 plus million refugees in the world today.  It sunk deep into my heart.

I am a woman who has been greatly blessed in her life.  I have seen many amazing places in the world.  I’ve always had people who loved me and whom I loved.  I have never known intense poverty.  I’ve always had shelter, food and clothing.  I might have been poor by American standards, but not by other countries in the world.  I have always had enough.

Andrés Vanegas Canosa
Andrés Vanegas Canosa http://www.andyvc.com/exploitation-of-children/

My family was never forced to flee for our religious beliefs. I’ve never had to watch someone I love be killed because they chose to believe in a different God. I’ve never had to walk hundreds of miles just to find a safe place to call home. I don’t know what it’s like to watch your world torn apart as you become an orphan at a young age and must flee the horrors of war.

A young migrant's hair becomes stuck whiAFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEKATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images

kurdish-child-refugee(Photo courtesy of The International Business Times)

Yet I understand pain, sorrow, grief and tears.  I understand the shock that comes from having to start over again and feeling overwhelmed.  I have witnessed disaster, intense poverty, fear, hunger, deep grief, tragedy, violence and death. But I have also witnessed relief, compassion, unconditional love,  kindness, charity, and so much more.

As I strike out to go forth in the world on another adventure, this time I plan on giving back.  I see the tears of the children and adults and my heart aches for them. I have so much love in my heart to give, why can’t I give back to those who have so little?

And this is why I call this post “A Call to Arms”…it is time for all of us to give back a little more.  My situation is unusual as I will be able to travel to another country and do it there, but you can find grief, pain, fear and more right in your own backyard.  The best way to resolve some of your own problems is to get outside of yourself and serve others!

The lyrics and song below are my own call to arms.  Read and listen…let it sink into your soul…then PLEASE go out and help in any way you can…even if it’s just an extra smile and hug.  Together we can all bring more light and love into this dark world and just maybe, make a real difference in the lives of those who are hurting.  Let’s give back hope together.  “Can you hear the pleas of the refugees for safe harbors of the heart?”

Safe Harbors – Michael McLean14th_Dhananjay-_14_2546825e

“There are refugees among us
That are not from foreign shores;
And the battles they are waging
Are from very private wars.
And there are no correspondents
Documenting all their grief,
But these refugees among us all
Are yearning for relief.

There are refugees among us.image
They don’t carry flags or signs.
They are standing right beside us
In the market check out lines;
And the war they’ve been fighting
It will not be televised,
But the story of their need for love
Is written in their eyes.

FAITH LEADERS REFUGEES
A boy touches his crying father (CNS photo/Georgi Licovski, EPA) Nov. 20, 2015.

This is a call to arms,
To reach out and to hold
The evacuees from the dark.
This is a call to arms,
To lead anguished souls
To safe harbors of the heart.”

 

If you wish to find a place to start helping, the site below is a great place to start!

https://www.ldscharities.org/?lang=eng